18 November 2019: In the name of the Lord

At the present time I am creating a piece called The Electric Chair.  It’s an interesting little automata that depicts an electrocution.,

Over the years I have occasionally had in my conscious mind thoughts of all the ways that we humans have hurt…tortured each other.  For about a year now I’ve been tossing around the thought of making an automata series that focused on things that we have done to each other (tortures) in the name of the Lord.  I’ve recently been on the internet reading and looking at pictures of tortures and I’ve decided that I will NOT do a series of torture themed automata.  We have done some incredibly nasty, mean, rotten, sick, perverse, narrow minded things to each other.

Our world is too precarious…we humans can be too mean.  Society does not need me creating automata that depict acts of torture.  Society needs me to create automata that leaves some sort of positive feeling in a human being.  I will continue to create The Electric Chair because it is an interesting little piece…and not really that violent…and least not in the same sense that torture is violent.  And it wouldn’t surprise me if I sell one or two of these little Electric Chair automata.  It’s an interesting little machine that causes one to pause.  But torture automata…nope…I’ll leave that one alone.  I’m going to focus on positive things.


7 November 2019, The Automata Magazine Forum, and progress, and frustration.

At the beginning of September Automata Magazine opened an online forum…a forum where automata is discussed and where automata thoughts are shared.  I’ve been active in the forum and am reaping rewards for my participation.  The participants are pleasant and many are knowledgeable.  I’ve learned about things that I had no clue about.  I would encourage those of you interested in automata to join this forum.  There is no charge.  Here is the link.

I continue to make progress on both The Electric Chair and Inclined Slide #1.

  • The Electric Chair: I’ve identified all of the motions that I will include and have create the base.  Now to fill it up with motion causing mechanics…let the fun begin!
  • Inclined Slide #1:  The motor that I’ve been waiting for has arrived and I’ve completed the test stand for the biped.  You can see a video of the biped test stand here (YouTube). I’ve got some of the assemblies completed…must keep pushing forward.

I continue to be frustrated with our federal government…and I am disappointed in the President that was elected in 2016.  If he wins in 2020 I may just jump off a bridge.

Electric Chair progress continues.


2 November 2019, An automated nativity scene in the Czech Republic

The November-December 2019 issue of Automata Magazine was just ePublished.  I so look forward to these issues…and this issue was certainly worth the wait.

One article has really captured my attention.  It is about an automata that took 40 years to build.  It was privately funded…not a commission. There is no paint.  There are thousands of carved parts.  The entire display is 23 feet long, and includes 373 individual figures.  51 community crafts are depicted.  It took three men 40 years to complete (1885-1926).  It survived WWII.  And it was just recently restored.

There is an excellent video, 20 minutes long, that describes this beautiful machine.  Time is spent viewing the restoration process.  If you are at all interested in automata this video is absolutely worth watching.  I’ve watched it three times in one day (so far!).  Here is the YouTube link to the video.

Probost’s Mechanical Christmas Crib


27 October 2019, The Electric Chair

Sometimes I drive a project, and sometimes a project drives me.  The Electric Chair is driving me right now.

I am enjoying the process of being creative…of having the right materials at hand so that I can move forward relatively quickly…and I am enjoying discussing this Electric Chair automata with others.  The reaction that I get from people is interesting.  Some ask me if Trump being our President is driving this effort.  I’ll admit that I’m not being driven by Trump consciously…but unconsciously…who knows.  I am extremely dissatisfied and frustrated with US Politics right now.  Extremely.  I wish folks could be honorable and keep their eyes on the important balls.

I’m in a good position right now with supplies being in stock in my studio.  I’ve got things working pretty smoothly in terms of reordering things…of having things that I need to have.  And I am working more efficiently in terms of time…not sure why.  My hands simply seem to be working better.  My hands seem to be creating better.

I ordered a couple of motors from China about three weeks ago.  They finally arrived this afternoon.  I’ll be able to place one of them into the Inclined Slide #1 test stand so that I can get this test stand working properly.

The Electric Chair is Taking Shape


18 October 2019, Automata in Public

In 2016 I created a 20 Pipe Street Organ and I have been playing it in public 2-4 times a month.  I’ve started taking Big Wheel Lift #1 with me to the venues where I feel I can control access (young folks) and to where I can actually transport.  It takes two trips to the car.  At some of the venues where I play the organ I simply cannot do two trips (that would mean leaving something ‘unguarded’).

Anyway, using the battery pack (that I mentioned 12 August) I turn on Big Wheel Lift #1 and start playing the street organ and people cheer up.  When they stop to visit the organ they almost always notice Big Wheel Lift #1, with many becoming fascinated.  And often the reverse happens…people notice the automata first.  The meter now reads 31,644 marbles cycled.  Big Wheel Lift is proving remarkably reliable…rarely dropping a marble or missing a beat.  If memory serves in the last 4,500 or so marbles…none have been tossed out.  Not bad.

Regarding “automata”, when people stop to chat and I speak the word “automata” many have never heard of the word…so discussion happens…which is good.  It’s good bringing automata out in public.

It is not unusual for someone from Europe to stop and chat.  They always remind me that Europe has much deeper automata roots than the US.

I’m very fortunate to be able to play my street organ in public and to demonstrate my automata in public.

Big Wheel Lift #1 displays alongside Misty, the 20 Pipe Street Organ. At the Bernardo Winery Farmers Market.

5 October 2019, The Automata Community

In late 2018 I discovered that Automata Magazine was going to be published.  I browsed the first two issues and then subscribed…and I am really glad that I did.

The world of automata is now much larger and much closer to me.  The articles in the magazine are at the very least interesting.  Many of them are excellent.

And then at the beginning of September 2019 the Automata Magazine Online Forum began.  Though still very young my life has already been enriched more than I was expecting.  It’s nice being able to participate and communicate with the similar minded individuals in the forum.

Inclined Slide #1 is progressing.  I’ve completed the upper drive frame and the marble lift and the ellipse that all will be sitting on. Next to be created will be the drive drum and the related ratchets and springs.

I’m enjoying creating the Jim’s Gym series…but am also starting to want to get out of that box and to do something different.  At this moment my top candidate is “The Electric Chair”.  Sort of a morbid but fascinating concept.  We’ll see.

The marble lift mechanism is being created.

24 September 2019, Still Plodding Along on the Test Stand

Construction of the Test Stand is important for several reasons:

  • The Test Stand is the first place that the geometry of the automata is actually developed so that it functions reliably.
  • The Test Stand permits thousands of cycles of “burn in”, under power.
  • The Test Stand creates the ‘biped standard’ for it’s automata.

As I have been creating this test stand things have been going pretty well.  I am experimenting with building my own hub clamps.  The clamps that I have been purchasing are $5.99 each.  Every time I use one of the purchased hubs I feel like I’m over paying.  Not that I think they are overpriced…but that I am overpaying.,

And I am also experimenting with different versions of cam followers.  The cam follower that you see in the image is a replacement part for a sliding screen door.

I’ve got the Inclined Slide Test Stand operating the biped via hand crank.  I’m very pleased with the motion and believe that this cam profile will be what is used on the actual automata.
The Inclined Slide Project Sheet can be found here.

And not to talk about the weather too much…but just to say that it looks like we are going to get our first rain of the season over the weekend.  It will be nice.  Things have become pretty dry.

This is the cam follower on the Inclined Slide Test Stand

15 September 2019, Test Stand & It’s HOT!

Inclined Slide #1 is moving along nicely.  Pictured is the biped test stand…still being developed.  When I create an automata that I know will be  #1 of a series I always build a test stand for the biped.  This allows me to create good reliable geometry…and then to ensure that each additional biped that is created for the series is properly hinged and configured.  The test stand will be motorized which allows me to “burn in” each biped…cycling it through thousands of cycles before installing it onto it’s automata.
The Inclined Slide Project Sheet is here.

Big Wheel Lift #1 has again accompanied me when I play my street organ.  The power pack that I purchased is working very well…and the automata continues to attract attention and conversation about automata.  Big Wheel Lift #1 has cycled more than 23,000 marbles and does not drop any of them.  It’s nice having the new case.
The Big Wheel Lift Project Sheet is here.

Things went slowly today.  The temperature exceeded 100°f so I took a nap in the middle of the day.  What a treat!  I’m feeling refreshed as I type this.  I simply couldn’t move faster than a snail when it was so hot.

The Inclined Slide Test Stand on it’s way to completion.


8 September 2019: A Case for Big Wheel Lift, Biped Hinges, Automata Magazine

This has been a good week.

I’ve finished the case for Big Wheel Lift #1.  In addition to holding the Big Wheel Lift it has racks for a set of marbles and for the 110v battery pack.  I used it today to take Big Wheel Lift #1 to the Sikes Farmers Market with me…where it operates next to me while I play my street organ.  The case is virtually airtight, which means that no dust will get inside.

I’m in the process of hinging the joints on the biped for Inclined Slide #1.  I’ve yet to identify a ‘standard’ way of installing joints.  Perhaps it will always be on a case by case basis.  I try hard to build longevity into my automata.  Big Wheel Lift #1, which was completed just last month, has already cycled more than 23,000 marbles.  The cycles add up fast.  Everything in these little machines needs to be properly constructed…always with an eye on longevity.  The automata monkey on my street organ has cycled in excess of 1,000,000 times.  And that’s all hand crank work.

Big Screw is forming in my mind.  I believe that it will be the next automata in the Jim’s Gym series of exercise machines.

The September/October issue of Automata Magazine was published.  It’s a great issue…I really enjoy and value Automata Magazine.  In addition the Automata Magazine Forum has been introduced.  I hope that this forum becomes a viable conversation pit for all things automata.

Big Wheel Lift #1 Carrying Case

28 August 2019, One born, one into the trash.

I have discarded A Sunday Drive.  I simply could not focus enough continual enthusiasm.  Too many other automata kept poking their way around A Sunday Drive.  So I’ve thrown it away.  It’s in the garbage.  No different I guess than a painter painting over a failed painting.

And there has been a birth this week.  The biped for Inclined Slide #1 has emerged from a block of basswood.  It’s still in rough shape (as opposed to finished).  Shoulder hinges are installed.  I need to install ankle, knee, and hip hinges…and I need to make a test stand for this biped.

I am building a carry case for Big Wheel Lift #2.

Our weather here in Southern California has been a bit too warm…so I generally don’t work in the middle of the afternoon…but the rest of the time my studio is comfortable.

I don’t feel bad about discarding A Sunday Drive…I feel good.  I learned and I got some fresh ideas.  Good things.

Inclined Slide #1 Project Sheet

Big Wheel Lift #1:  Project Sheet, Detail Sheet

A Sunday Drive Project Sheet

The Inclined Slide Biped emerges 28 August 2019.